Beyond Belief : The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Version: Abridged
Author: Elaine Pagels
Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyck
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Christianity, Bibles
Publisher: Random House (Audio)
Published In: May 2004
# of Units: 4 CDs
Length: 5 hours
Ratings:
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Overview

Special edition including the complete text of the Gospel of Thomas
Elaine Pagels, one of the world's most important writers and thinkers on religion and history, and winner of the National Book Award for her groundbreaking work "The Gnostic Gospels, now reflects on what matters most about spiritual and religious exploration in the twenty-first century. This bold new book explores how Christianity began by tracing its earliest texts, including the secret Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945.
When her infant son was diagnosed with fatal pulmonary hypertension, Elaine Pagels's spiritual and intellectual quest took on a new urgency, leading her to explore historical and archeological sources and to investigate what Jesus and his teachings meant to his followers before the invention of doctrine-and before the invention of Christianity as we know it.
The astonishing discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, along with more than fifty other early Christian texts unknown since antiquity, offers startling clues. Pagels compares such sources as Thomas's gospel (which claims to give Jesus' secret teaching, and finds its closest affinities with kabbalah) with the canonic texts to show how Christian leaders chose to include some gospels and exclude others from the collection we have come to know as the New Testament. To stabilize the emerging Christian church in times of devastating persecution, the church fathers constructed the canon, creed, and hierarchy-and, in the process, suppressed many of its spiritual resources.
Drawing on new scholarship-her own, and that of an international group of scholars-that has come to light since the publication in 1979 of The Gnostic Gospels, Pagels shows that what matters about Christianity involves much more than any one set of beliefs. Traditions embodied in Judaism and Christianity can powerfully affect us in heart, mind, and spirit, inspire visions of a new society based on practicing justice and love, even heal and transform us.
Provocative, beautifully written, and moving, "Beyond Belief, the most personal of Pagels's books to date, shows how "the impulse to seek God overflows the narrow banks of a single tradition." Pagels writes, "What I have come to love in the wealth and diversity of our religious traditions-and the communities that sustain them-is that they offer the testimony of innumerable people to spiritual discovery, encouraging us, in Jesus' words, to 'seek, and you shall find.'"

"From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews (13)

Beyond Belief : The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Written by Anonymous on January 2nd, 2008

  • Book Rating: 3/5

This book should be entitled "Beyond Belief: The Secret Author of the Gospel of John - Irenaeus". Although I found the text very informative, I think the content does not support the title. The reader does not gain tremendous knowledge of the Gospel of Thomas. Perhaps the unabridged version does greater it justice. However, even in its abridged format I found it difficult to complete. It would be a great resource for a research paper, but the general reader may find it too academic.

Much more about John than Thomas

Written by Travis Wise on June 3rd, 2006

  • Book Rating: 3/5

The title of this book leads one to believe that it will lend more insight to the meaning of the sayings of Thomas and beliefs of "Thomas Christians." Instead, the author dwells on the way that John came to be the cornerstone of the gospels and how modern Christians tend to view the synoptic gospels' depiction of Christ through John's lens. Yes, there is some discussion of Thomas, but also some of the other writings discovered at Nag Hammadi, and it seems the primary purpose of this discussion is to show how divided the early Christian comunity was and how some of its leaders went about suppressing dissident voices. I still found the book somewhat interesting, but my opinion of it suffers due to the misleading title.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Written by Janine Kearns on March 14th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

It was strange to have the book read by someone other than the author, and the reader was a bit dramatic when she did not need to be. But the content was fabulous and makes me want to read more. Enjoy!

Misleading

Written by Richard Buck on December 17th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 1/5

This book is about 3% Gospel of Thomas and 97% the history of the Catholic Religion. The title suggests that there is an another 'EYE OPENING' way to look at the life of Jesus Christ, but instead all you get is a history lesson of the rise of the Catholic Church.

Beyond Belief

Written by Anonymous on August 23rd, 2005

  • Book Rating: 2/5

If you looking to find out more about Thomas and his writing, this is not the book for you. She spends most of her time talking about how the present 4 main gospels were chosen. She only briefly discusses Thomas. It is good if you want a history of how the new testament came about but not on the long lost writings from Egypt

Better than I started out thinking but

Written by Shane Nixon from Burlington, NC on July 20th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 2/5

You'll need several things to enjoy this one, at least I did. First you need to give it some time, maybe too much. For me it was about a disk or so. It takes that long to get interesting and before the real meat manifests itself. Next you'll need at least some theological training as the concepts presented are at best heavy, perhaps just to deep for most (including me.) I wanted the book to spur some thought, it did, so not a total loss. But it wasn't particulalry entertaining and I didn't take the time to make it a reference tool.

Dense but good

Written by Fascinated Agnostic from Petaluma, CA on July 17th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This is a pretty dense listen, and I found myself with so much to think about I'd forget to listen and have to rewind fairly often. The book is the better option (and unabridged) but the CD is well-read. if you're interested in early Christian history, the formulation of canon, and the variations in the numerous Gospels.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Written by Anonymous from Minnetonka, MN on June 29th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 3/5

The author gave an interesting historical perspective. I was unaware of the many facts she laid out. I did not get from the book what I had anticipated. I found myself asking questions as to the "why'd they do that?" only to have the author posing the very same question I was just asking. I found this to be very entertaining. I rushed through the book in two days. I wanted to find out what else she was going to discuss.

Beyond belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Written by Anonymous on May 22nd, 2005

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Great source of information. Brings up serveral questions and provokes thought.

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Written by David Gardner on February 17th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 1/5

I give the audio addition of this book only one star because it is difficult to follow. This is not an easy book to listen to in terms of keeping track of all of the theories, characters and elements. I purchased a written copy of the book and am enjoying it much more. This is the type of book that takes some study to fully understand and appreciate. The audiobook would be good to listen to as a follow-up to reading the book.

Author Details

Author Details

Pagels, Elaine

Elaine Pagels earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in classical studies at Stanford, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the author of "Adam, Eve, and the Serpent"; "The Origin of Satan"; and "The Gnostic Gospel"s, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. She is currently the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Pagels lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and children.